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Tucker’s sprint sweep paces 2nd-place effort for Buffalo in track regional

By Tommy Atkinson, Staff writer

Buffalo hasn’t been known for producing sprinters lately, but Jordan Tucker is quickly challenging that notion.

The junior swept the 100 and 200 meters in the boys division of the Class A Region 4 high school track meet Wednesday afternoon at Laidley Field.

The top three in each event (four in high jump and pole vault) qualify for the state meet, with four more qualifiers to be named among the four regions (except for high jump and pole vault). The state meet is set for May 23-24 at Laidley.

Tucker wasn’t the only athlete from Buffalo having a good day as senior Isaiah Robinson (800), sophomore Hayden Harrison (1,600), senior Gabe Garrison (110 hurdles) and senior Cody Sheppard (300 hurdles) also turned in victories. The Bison shuttle hurdles relay of Garrison, sophomore Ty Smith, freshman Hayden Erwin and Sheppard also pulled out a win.

Doddridge County’s depth was too much for Buffalo to overcome as the three-time defending state champion Bulldogs ran away with the boys team title 147-115. Charleston Catholic finished fourth with 52 points.

On the girls side, three-time defending titlist Williamstown took home the regional crown, besting Doddridge 170-129 with Charleston Catholic taking third at 123 points.

Tucker’s 11.4 seconds in the 100 Wednesday was his best clocking this season and just one-hundredth of a second off the best time in the state, according to RunWV.com. The junior’s 200 clocking of 23.18 was well of his top time 23.01, which was also best in the state.

“We’ve been doing some towing exercises where he’s pulling with the harness,’’ said Buffalo coach Richie Wyant. “I think that’s really helped him. He didn’t start it until about halfway through the season and that seems to be when he kicked it up another notch.’’

Tucker’s emergence as a sprint threat has been a work in progress. He didn’t run as a freshman and his first season on the track was last year as a sophomore. He finished sixth in the 100 at states last season with an 11.71 and didn’t make it out of qualifying in the 200, just missing the final eight by one spot.

The 5-foot-7, 150-pound Tucker is also a budding football star, leading Buffalo in rushing with 1,405 yards and 17 touchdowns this past season. He also and caught 17 passes for 235 yards with three scores.

“I think he surprised himself,’’ said Wyant of last year’s success. “I told him with a little bit of work you can be right there with those top guys. He’s put the time in and now the benefits are paying off. I was worried how straight-out fast he would be, but he’s shown this year the weight room work he’s done in the offseason has really paid off.

“He’s a lot stronger runner. His first 40 yards, a lot of times he’ll be 7 to 8 yards ahead of everybody else just out of the gate. He’s got a great first step. It’s as solid a team as I’ve ever had and he’s made it just that much better.’’

Wyant said Tucker has a chance to turn in a special state meet next week.

“We see some awful good competition in this region,’’ said the Buffalo coach. “He’s going to be right there [at the state meet]. If he’s not in the top three I’ll be surprised. He’s running times that would put him right there at the top. He could very well win it.’’

Wyant said Wednesday’s regional meet showed that the Bison could be a factor at states. Harrison also qualified in the 3,200 (second) and Sheppard in the 110 hurdles (second). The 4x100 (third) and 4x800 (second) are also through to states.

“We can compete,’’ Wyant said. “I told them all along since the beginning of the year with a break here or there we could be contending for a state championship. We’re going to make it interesting.’’

On the girls side, Charleston Catholic sophomore Payton Mullen captured the 1,600 and 3,200 while sophomore Peyton Keener led a 1-2-3 sweep of the 800 followed by freshman Lia Preston and senior Quincy McKown. Preston, senior Sarah Joseck, Keener and freshman Mary Katherine Kay also won the 4x400 relay and senior Gina Marks took the shot put. Also advancing to states were freshman Hannah Gacek (3,200, third), senior Catherine Casingal (pole vault, second) and the 4x100 (second), 4x200 (second) and 4x800 (third) relays.

“The shuttles didn’t run well and that was probably the only thing that didn’t do what we wanted it to,’’ said Catholic coach Scott Welch. “I think the girls can certainly make some noise [at the state meet]. Doddridge, Tucker County and us will be battling for that second spot. It’ll be really tight.’’

For the Irish boys, senior Phillip Mallory took second in the 400, 800 and 300 hurdles and third in the pole vault. The 4x400 relay finished second even though it was missing two of its best runners who were pulled for other events and the 4x200 (third) and 4x400 (second) also advanced.

“I took a big gamble because Phillip Mallory has never run the 800,’’ Welch said. “We’re going to have to make a decision with him on which one of his opens he’s going to leave. We want him to run one of those relays so they can win a state title. [Junior] Ryan Edwards has only ran five races and he pulled the best time he’s run all year in the 200. I was really pleased with the effort.’’

Other double winners in the girls division included Williamstown’s Madelin Gardner (200, 400 and pole vault) and Doddridge County’s Sarah Ferguson (100 and 300 hurdles and long jump).

Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkinson@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.


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